Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nothing to Yell about, Yahoo! - #OPavalon

On the afternoon of 6 November 2012, I was one of three members of the SG Twitterverse who made our way to Elaine Chiam's (@avalon) apartment after seeing a series of tweets that were a serious cause for concern.

While the support and concern shown on Twitter was overwhelming, an article from Yahoo! Singapore was disappointing, full of factual errors and unfortunately, widely circulated.

So let's set the story straight.

Yahoo! Singapore understands that Chiam was due to see her psychiatrist at 5:15pm later on Tuesday but got drunk, sparking the torrent of suicidal tweets. 

This is what happens when tweets are used as fact. As real as tweets may be, they must be taken in context. It is not alcohol that sparked a "torrent of suicidal tweets", it was the major depressive disorder that Yahoo! SG mentioned in their article. This is a serious, clinical condition and what happened yesterday should not be confused with a drunken tirade.

 Police arrived at her HDB flat in Ubi Avenue 1, which she shares with her mother and boyfriend, shortly after 430pm. Singapore Civil Defence Force staff was also called in to force open the door after she failed to respond to friends who had gathered outside her flat. 

This is untrue.

Firstly, Elaine's mother does not even live in the same country.

Secondly, The SCDF arrived first. SCDF then called the police, who arrived shortly after. 

Another thing worth noting is that no one came to "force open the door". The police found a side window that was unopened, one of them jumped in (quite amusingly, this was met with guffaws of approval from the rest) and opened the door from inside.

The "friends who had gathered outside" were myself, @debsho22 and @tumblenc. And we did not simply gather, we had been trying to get in for hours by the time SCDF arrived. This included talking to neighbours, checking if her bedroom windows were open from the back of the flat, trying to break into her door and windows, calling her doctor, searching the neighbourhood for her and keeping the rest of our twitter family informed. This was public on twitter because this is where the people who care and are concerned about Elaine are. Unlike other parties that chose to involve themselves, we did not do it for a story, popularity, RTs  or followers. 

Getting the police involved was our last resort, and the SCDF arrived just as we had run out of other options. Unknown to us at the time, Yahoo SG had taken a step away from their position as a news source and became personally involved by making a call to SCDF. Besides the fact that such interference identifies the news source as one that is open to manipulation for the purpose of sensationalised reporting, this brings us to what troubles us most: 

According to one of her friends who communicated with Yahoo! Singapore, Chiam was found barely conscious and is now being treated at Changi General Hospital.

There are three people who were present at the time Elaine was found. That means there were three people who would have been in a position to communicate that to Yahoo! SG, because there are three people who would have seen her level of consciousness. None of those three people spoke to Yahoo.

What probably happened is that a tweet to a concerned friend was picked up, reworded and published as fact for the story.

Twitter is public and I can't stop anyone from taking information from my feed. But don't say that we communicated with Yahoo! Singapore when we didn't. If information or a quote was required, Yahoo! could've asked us. If Yahoo! wanted to quote tweets from us, the information could've been presented as a tweet from Elaine's friend. But instead, Yahoo chose to grab the information most easily available and sell it as fact without any attempt to verify if the information was correct, accurate, or if it was at all appropriate to publish this information.

I also refer to this part of the article:

Last year in October, Chiam was rescued from another suicide attempt at Changi Beach after sending out a series of tweets describing her struggle with a “suicidal desire”.
She referred to the rescue last year when she tweeted on Tuesday, "twitter. pls.stop rescuing me. i really wan to die. i never meant for anyone to read what i type."

Do not make assumptions as to what a person refers to in a tweet. Elaine's friends on twitter always reach out to her and help her; are you sure this tweet was in reference to last year's rescue? I'm a good friend of Elaine's and I'm not sure. How is it that you are?

And finally, this:

Rather than a means to seek attention, Yahoo! understands that her tweets are used as a support network for her to alert her circle of friends whenever she feels depressed. 

I'm curious, how exactly does Yahoo! understand this? Like many of us, Elaine tweets her thoughts, feelings, fears, observations, whatever she wants to tweet. While I might agree that Twitter in general is a supportive network of friends and strangers, these tweets are not used as a means to alert us. Again, why didn't anyone stop to ask?

It is with great regret that I am forced to assume that  Yahoo! Singapore did not want to report the news; they wanted to post an exciting story as fast as they could. This was done with all journalistic integrity or dedication to at least trying (and it wouldn't have been hard) to get the facts right thrown out the window.

It more even more regrettable that this was done at the expense of my friend; Elaine, to many of us is, more than just breaking news. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

#freeSKLO: You Can't Arrest an Idea

It's going more viral than the stickers themselves: Sam Lo #SKLO arrested for the street art that everyone has come to love, laugh at or appreciate in various ways. 

But it comes down to a lot more than a random street artist or young hooligan being put in her place. This is about culture, about creativity, about allowing local trailblazers to do their thing and put us on the map. It's also about stepping outside of the boundaries, looking at other "creative hubs"and seeing what causes creativity to prosper i love banksy and knowing what works.

As someone on Facebook pointed out, the penalty for drink-driving is notably more serious than for this guerilla street art. We're telling our beloved foreign talents and tourists that we care more about how we look than about how we treat our people; we want to live up to our pristine, anti-chewing gum image (but we're also really cool and creative, y'know?). Street art and face jail time,  DUI and you've got a fine and maybe they won't let you drive for a bit.

 Singapore has been trying unsuccessfully for a while to secure the image of a creative, cultural, happening place to be. We bring in top bands and artists from around the world, pay millions of dollars to keep our entertainment scene thriving, and throw in token amounts to promote local artists.

But what we've got here, thanks to skLo, is art that is entirely our own - it's Singaporean, it's DIY, and it speaks to the people who fill the streets and create our culture well the ones who have been here a while anyway.No one was offended by it. Everyone loved it. Everyone was talking about it, and thanks to the arrest, everyone will continue talking about it for a while.

What we're saying is that we want to be seen as cool without loosening the ropes: a prerequisite for actually being cool.
We want to diversify our portfolio with art and music and sport, but we will arrest those who do just that.. unless they are done in ways that have been assigned to us.
We will embrace an increasingly open arts scene where some nudity, profanity and once-taboo subjects like homosexuality can be in the spotlight, but we will shun a person's never-seen-before creativity because, well, it wasn't on the menu and you can't serve what hasn't been ordered by those on top.

Dear Ministers, Law, State and whoever else lies behind this arrest: This is the creativity you wanted. We've had it in us for a long time, and creativity presents itself whether or not you're ready for it. Look around online. The people have spoken. We're ready for it. We want her back. We're rallying for Sam.

Make the first step in your quest to be cool and for the love of all you've been allegedly aiming for, set Samantha Lo free.

More to Read:

MICA Review:

Kiss My Culture 

The Aaron Loy

CNA Reports

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

SlutWalk Singapore's Response to NCPC: We're Not Staying Silent

Statement from Slutwalk Singapore on Nation Crime Prevention Council's Festive Season Crime Prevention Campaign

4 January 2012

In November 2011 the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) launched a new campaign titled Festive Season Crime Prevention Campaign. The campaign features various incidents where crimes are likely to take place. Namely, a man about to reach into a woman's bag for her valuables, a man breaking into a home and a group of young men roughed up after a fight. The message: to prevent yourselves from becoming a victim during the festive season by being alert to your surroundings, avoiding confrontation and securing your home with strong grills and locks.

At the same time, one of these collaterals features a woman about to be groped by a man. The advice given is to have someone escort you home when it's late and to avoid walking through dimly lit and secluded areas alone. The caption: Don't get rubbed the wrong way.

In response to SlutWalk Singapore's comment on Facebook questioning the victim-blaming nature of the campaign, the following response was received:

Many thanks for taking time to read our NCPC adverts developed for our festive season crime prevention campaign.

In response to SlutWalker Singapore x Kuala Lumpur's comment on the outrage of modesty (OM) poster, we would like to share that the messages were crafted to address the public in general. Through this advertising campaign, we hope to
remind people to take extra precaution so that they do not become victims of crime during this festive season. This same approach is taken for our other messages - burglary, pickpocketing & housebreaking.

We hope that we have addressed your concerns.

We wish to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year.

NCPC Administrative

Slutwalk Singapore would firstly like to thank NCPC for their response, and similarly extend our festive greetings for the new year.

More importantly, we would like to address the implications in the campaign and NCPC's more recent response.

The similar approach to other messages, as cited by NCPC, such as burglary, pickpocketing and housebreaking calls into question the very basis of Slutwalk both in Singapore and around the world.

NCPC refers to the similarities between a campaign to prevent unlawful access to a person's property and to a person's body. SlutWalk Singapore would like to point out the differences.

While Slutwalk Singapore agrees that caution is necessary and can decrease the chances of unlawful acts against a person, this is secondary to the nature of our cause.

Claiming that a similar approach can be taken to protecting your property and your body is akin to saying that breaking someone's window and breaking someone's arm is the same thing. By the same token, is breaking into someone's home the same as breaking into a person's body?

Indeed it is wrong for a person's property to be unlawfully gained, damaged or used in any way without their consent. But more importantly, a person's body is something far more sacred and personal than any object one owns. Slutwalk Singapore stands against this clear objectification of a woman's body and argues against NCPC's stand that a similar approach should be taken to protect a woman's body and a woman's mobile phone.

To say Don't Steal, Don't Rob and Don't Fight are all worthy causes that should also be addressed. But at the core of Slutwalk Singapore's cause lies a very simple message: Don't Rape.

Walking down a dark alley alone is neither the most common circumstance for assault nor is it an invitation for unwelcome advances. With this in mind, Slutwalk Singapore would like to reiterate our aversion to the campaign and once again remind the relevant authorities that under no circumstances is any form of rape or assault the victim's fault, nor has she contributed to the crime in any way by means of her being alone at night or returning home unescorted.

Slutwalk Singapore